Welcome bags help ease transfers for young patients

August 29, 2017 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

When a child is hospitalized it’s stressful for the whole family. Complex cases that require a transfer to a second hospital can add more stress, especially if the parents plan to stay at the hospital overnight.

Edward-Elmhurst Health is easing the transition for families whose child is being transferred from Elmhurst Hospital’s Emergency Department or Pediatrics Department to a higher level of pediatric care at Edward Hospital in Naperville, including its Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northern Indiana (RMHC-CNI) is supporting this effort by providing “welcome bags” for young patients and their families.

The process begins with a conversation between the nursing staff and family at Elmhurst Hospital.

Says Lucette Gregory, RN, clinical coordinator of the Pediatric Inpatient unit at Elmhurst, “When a transfer is necessary it usually means something unexpected has happened, so the families are anxious about what’s next. We tell them about Edward, and that we are all part of the same organization.”

The nurse might also mention that Edward is one of only 10 pediatric critical care centers in the state and that it has a Ronald McDonald Family Room.

Next come the welcome bags. The idea behind the bags started when Diane Long, RN, director of Children’s Services at Edward, asked Brittany Rhyne, manager of the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Edward, if there was anything else that could be done to reduce stress for these families.

“The families are being asked to take their sick child to a community they may not be familiar with,” says Long. “We want to make them feel welcome before they even arrive.”

Rhyne looked into RMHC-CNI donating welcome bags, and Lisa Mitchell, vice president of Programs and Services for RMHC-CNI, approved the idea as an ongoing program.

The first set of welcome bags were delivered to Elmhurst Hospital on Aug. 11. Now, each child being transferred receives a bag before he or she leaves the hospital.

Each large canvas tote is filled with items to comfort the young patient, including a fuzzy blanket, stuffed animal, crayons and coloring book. The bags also have toiletries, notecards and a pen for the parents – items that could come in handy when they use the Ronald McDonald Family Room at Edward. The area features two sleep rooms with private bathrooms, a playroom, kitchenette, dining tables, computer stations, and TV and sitting areas.

The bags and their contents had all been donated from people across the country, and packed by local RMHC-CNI volunteers and staff. Some items are created by local groups, such as the fleece blankets, made by Girl Scouts.

“There is so much care and thought that go into these bags by the many people who touch the project,” says Mitchell.

For example, people at Hamburger University in Oak Brook who are in leadership training for their work at McDonald’s restaurants helped put together the welcome bags. In each bag they packed, they included a personally written note of encouragement to the family who’d receive it.

Says Mitchell, “We’re always looking for new ways to meet the needs of families. We’ve given these bags out at our Houses and Family Rooms before, but never to patients who are transferring from one hospital to another within the same system. But a move that’s even moderately farther from home can create challenges, even when it’s the best path for the child’s health.”

RMHC-CNI is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to caring for families of children with complex medical needs by providing a home away from home while their child is being treated in the hospital. The organization operates five Ronald McDonald Houses, three Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile and a scholarship program.

Find out more about RMHC-CNI and its programs.

Learn more about children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health and Edward Hospital’s Ronald McDonald Family Room.


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